Review Date: August 30, 2005
Released by: MGM
Release date: 8/30/2005
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
It must be said that even if horror isn’t exactly a reputable genre, at the very least it remains one of the most experimental genres in the industry. One that relies on style over stars, mood over plot and feeling over thinking, the horror genre’s emphasis on visceral reaction enables it to avoid complex plotting in favor of experimental styles and ideas. The Horror Sequel theoretically gives the makers even more freedom to experiment, since the basic plot has already been established in the previous outing. Perhaps this is why some of the craziest horror movies out there have not only been horror films, but sequels too.
Evil Dead II
is a classic, and proof of where creativity can go once the groundwork is laid in place. But more interesting are those bizarro movies that seem to bare little connection (if at all) to the plot of the first film. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2
, Halloween III
and Troll 2
immediately come to mind. These films are generally characterized as awful, or at the very least guilty pleasures, but something must be said for the wild culmination of high camp with high ideas. Whoever thought that eating a bologna sandwich, getting whipped in the shower by your S&M clad gym teacher or listening to an annoyingly repetitive jingle would make for compelling viewing must have been crazy, but yet those bits of rampant, perverse imagination make for some of the most memorable images of horror cinema. It’s a compelling thing when the depths of the imagination have no boundaries, and when done right The Horror Sequel can provide the ticket to unrestrained what-the-hell-did-I-just-watch insanity.
To this list of horror sequels that reach through the original film and into the land of the bizarre, is Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf
. A five-years-too-late follow-up to Joe Dante’s now classic werewolf howler, Howling II is an oddity. After getting panned off the screens in 1986, the movie laid low on video shelves, although the cult following behind it has become quite potent. As the big studios find themselves scraping the barrel for new fall DVD titles, they continue to pull out the oddities. Warner Brothers is bringing out the killer rabbit opus, Night of the Lepus
, and now MGM has finally listened to the howls of fans for one of the weirdest, Howling II
. Trust me, it’s weird.
So apparently this film takes place right after the first one, with the funeral of Karen White (not Dee Wallace Stone
). Karen White became a werewolf at the end of the first, and was shot down at the television station at which she worked. Her demise is shown on television to her brother Ben (Reb White
), thanks to the wonders of unconvincing body doubles and inexplicable slow motion (supposedly a broadcast tape, it somehow manages to frame ramp to slow motion as she is being shot). The shower of this broadcast is none other than Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee
), who we learn is a Van Helsing-esque werewolf hunter. He tries to tell Ben that, yes, His Sister Is A Werewolf, but of course he balks at this accusation and runs away. Sloppy editing leads us to the inevitable scene where Stefan saves the day because, surprise surprise, his Sister Really Was A Werewolf.
With Karen now worm food, it isn’t until much later that Ben runs into Stefan, this time at a new wave bar where the werewolves apparently frequent. You’d think the werewolves would be able to spot their most loathsome enemy, but Stefan has smartly disguised himself with trendy new wave sunglasses. He grooves to the synth beats unnoticed, all the while spotting out potential fang-ridden monsters. If anything, we learn that these werewolves know how to party.
The one able to party most is Stirba (Sybil Danning), the lord of the werewolves and the one celebrating her tenth millennium. Apparently on this celebration, all the werewolves will be brought together, and they will wreak havoc across the earth. In a voluptuous and youthful new body, she leads her werewolves as they engage in orgy and continue to prowl for new prey. If becoming a werewolf means having a ménage a trios with Sybil Danning and other voluptuous woman, you begin to wonder just what sort of thing Stefan and Ben stand for. At any rate, Stefan, Ben, his girlfriend, and a helpful circus midget (seriously) all team up to take down the evil Werewolf Bitch. The film commences with an ending of such glorious excess that it makes the explosive orgy of The Fury
’s final moments seem like mere foreplay into the perverse. It is totally unkempt.
Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf
is one of those rare movies where a plot description does not even begin to do it justice. It is so amazingly inept on the surface, yet it riles with some weird, stupid, inexplicable intensity throughout. It is one of those movies so weird you wonder how it ever got made, but yet you are so glad it did. You give it a rating of 1 on IMDb, of course, but quietly hope it will rise to the top of the bad movie heap. It currently sits at 66, but deserves equal company with Troll 2
at at least 21.
In fact, Troll 2
is perhaps the only film even remotely comparable to Philippe Mora’s werewolf Morasterpiece. Like Troll 2
, the title is totally misleading, since Ben’s sister is dead and forgotten in the first moments of the film. The entire film is about Striba, just like Troll 2
is about goblins and not trolls. As illogical as the title is, Your Sister Is A Werewolf just sounds awesome, like some pitch perfect playground cuss used by fourth graders when all the Your Momma jokes have been expunged. “Dude…Your Sister Is A Werewolf,” little Jimmy says to Mark. Mark shrugs, looks up, and with hopeful sincerity states “Hey…There’s Always Vanilla.” Could you imagine a world more perfect?
The other obvious connection with Troll 2
is that both films are made by Europeans trying desperately to appropriate the English language. The actors of Troll 2
were in on the joke that their dialogue was totally off key and unnatural, yet played complacent to the auteurist wand of Claudio Fragasso. One hopes that Christopher Lee was in like flint as well, because Howling II
rings with some wonderfully bad dialogue. Choice cuts are “I just buried my sister…please leave me alone.” and “He said your Sister Is A Werewolf” to which Ben responds “Oh, bullshit!” The entire film seems as if it were written through AltaVista translators, and the awkward and mostly nonsensical dialogue (including mystical narration by Lee) come off incredibly surreal. Another moment I enjoyed was when Ben’s girlfriend was crying and she said to Ben “I need you to hold me…I’m so scared.” Ben moves over and awkwardly hugs her, and then immediately the two have wild sex standing up against the hotel room wall. So much for heating up the oven…
Almost as great as the dialogue are the completely random and inexplicable flourishes in the film, like the Home Improvement
-esque scene transitions. Why they are there I don’t know, but it only adds to the head-scratching brilliance of the movie. Then there is the circus midget who helps them out throughout their journey, and who for some reason or another must depend upon a pair of cheaply made earplugs. Apparently a midget’s ears are much more sensitive to feral howling than are normal people, and the midget is left immobile without his little ear sticks. Then there are Christopher Lee’s new age sunglasses, which need no other description than that derived from the image above. Simply amazing.
As if that weren’t enough to recommend this movie for weirdness alone, the movie has probably the most insert shots ever captured to celluloid. Nearly every cut is to some extreme close-up of some sort, motivated or not. Ben is walking and suddenly it cuts to a fireplace or a statue, I don’t know why, but its likely that Philippe Mora didn’t know either. The fight scenes take on this crazy vibe, since every movement is proceeded by an insert shot of a werewolf’s head shooting out blood, and it happens so frequently and so abruptly that the spatial lines of cinema exist no longer, it just becomes one big repetitive dreamlike wonder. The sheep just keep jumping over that stupid fence.
The greatest editing moment however, is during the final credits, which if you want to save yourself the pleasure of experiencing it unknowing, you should skip this paragraph. After the movie unsuccessfully tries for an abrupt wrap-up, it immediately returns to the new wave bar that pops up about eight times in the movie (apparently that band just plays the same song there 365 days a year). The band starts playing, and the credits role, but the brilliance begins when Sybil Danning’s iconic disrobing from earlier in the film is repeated to the beat. She rips off her top, and then we see a clip from earlier on in the movie of a character jumping back in fear. It is a wonderful moment of contextual editing, and just when you think it can’t get any better, Sybil rips off her top again. And again. And again. Seventeen times she does it, each time with a reaction shot from the film, climaxing with exploding eyes and even the reaction of an owl(!). Her strip scene is the most memorable of the film, and the editor had the heart of mind to replay it seventeen times at the end of the film, just in case we missed it the first. Awesome.
Amidst all the absurdity, I suppose one should attempt to make sense of what Mora was trying to say with the film. Exhibition, performance and spectacle all seem to be major themes throughout the film, with the festival life juxtaposed with the impulsive courting of the werewolves. People wear masks, dance and frolic, and the film’s incessant insert shots gives us plenty of close-ups of puppets and performers. The mask, and the idea of acting, is an elemental aspect of the horror film, highlighting the duality of some of horror’s most lasting characters. Dracula, The Wolf Man, Norman Bates, all represent mankind’s ability to be both good and bad all in one conflicting entity, and it is often brought up through metaphors, like having Lon Chaney inflicted with the bite of the wolf on the same grounds as the spectacle of the traveling circus, with all its masks and sideshow antics. Mora seems to be attempting to continue such horror tradition, but any attempt at meaning is hampered by the sheer peculiarity of the final product.
Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf
is more than just a movie that is so bad it’s good. It may be for the most part inept, but it is out of that ineptness that it is able to reach a whole new level of craziness. One gets the feeling that if this were in more competent hands, like say Joe Dante or John Landis, that it would come out better but at the same time so much worse. There is a charm in seeing Mora, with his poor grasp of English, try to tell the story of Howling II¸ much like there is charm in watching a five year old try to tell a short story. It makes little sense, but the ideas are not hindered by any sense of control. It’s so far off the wall it doesn’t even know what the wall is. I’ve seen a lot of films, but Howling II
is one that I will never forget.
MGM affords the film with a sharp anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. Their horror discs, while usually barebones, are almost always outfitted with unprecedented sharp transfers. Ghoulies
certainly don’t deserve to look as good as they do, but MGM has proven over the last few years that they can still hammer out quality transfers on budget titles. Howling II
looks sharp, with strong blacks and good contrast. Considering all the inserts are shot amidst a black background it’s a good thing the blacks look as solid as they do. The print is clean as well, with the occasional speckle and grainy take popping in every so often. Considering the film has a new wave palette of colors, the video is thankfully nice and vibrant. Really, not much to complain about here. A full screen version is included on the opposite side of the disc.
Your Sister Is a Werewolf
howls in mono only, but the track is more than acceptable. The synthesizer score is as crazy as the movie itself, and the throbbing and repetitive theme comes through without a hitch in mono. Indeed, it even sounds forceful. You’ll be tapping your feet to it, for sure.
Although not listed on the back, the theatrical trailer is included with the film, and its about as wild as the rest of the movie. Awesome.
is one of those movies that just has to be seen to be believed. Midgets, Christopher Lee in new wave sunglasses, breast-watching end credit montage, werewolf orgies, copious insert shots, this movie has it all. It rivals Troll 2
in the same inept/surreal way. Like Troll 2
, MGM has also given this a first class video transfer and a respectable audio mix. The only extra is a trailer, but having this film on DVD is bonus enough. Lovers of bad movies, surrealism or Sybil Dannings’ breasts will undoubtedly come out happy. With so much craziness going on throughout, I have no problem in dubbing this one of the hairiest films ever made. See it.
Movie - Unclassifiable
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B-
Supplements - D
- Running Time - 1 hour 31 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Discs
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- Spanish mono
- English subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles